I closed my eyes.The flickering of lights above was nauseating me already.I was being wheeled into the Operation theatre.My leg was hurting.Even more hurting were the random thoughts that just kept popping every now and then ceaselessly.
Never did I imagine until today that I would be wheeled into the same OT complex where I have been working for years.Never did I imagine until today that I would be lying on the OT table ready for a surgery instead of performing one.But here I was,waiting for my turn on a calm Sunday afternoon....
It was around 9.45 am and I was getting ready to go for rounds,it being a Sunday.There was nothing in the morning to suggest that this day was going to witness a turning point in my life or rather,our lives.I was almost at the door when an untoward incident happened at home and a couple of seconds later,I was on the floor with a lacerated wound over the back of my right leg above the ankle ,accompanied by sheering pain and a pool of blood beneath.My wife.being a doctor herself, was quick to react and local compression stopped the bleeding.Amidst the sobs,she regained herself and quickly swept off the shredded glass pieces lying on the floor so that my kids would not be injured.My children,under 2 years then,stood perplexed beside me wondering what really happened to their dad.
I called my Junior doctor who was on duty that day and he quickly came from the hospital with sufficient ER staff and the next moment,I found myselfhoisted into the ambulance waiting outside.The only thing I was worried about was my family.We had been staying away from our respective families,just the four of us.Eventhough our parents were to arrive soon,we were helpless all of a sudden,if not for the timely help we received from our apartment neighbours on the same floor,who were also colleagues of ours at the hospital.
We reached the ER in 10 minutes and soon I was lying prone on a casualty bed.I was fortunate enough to be tended to by the Professor of Orthopaedics himself.He made a quick examination under local anaesthesia and informed me of the need for a surgical exploration in the theatre after making note of multiple tendon injuries.Since I was expecting it,the announcement was not a surprise.Soon followed the routine pre-operative investigations to assess fitness before the procedure.And that was the first among the many RT-PCR tests I underwent.Juby was able to reach by then since my parents and in-laws had arrived.The gloomy smile of hers is something I still remember vividly.Eventually,I was shifted to the room where I was to wait for my turn to be shifted to the OT complex.
It was around 2.30 PM when the staff arrived. My dad and Juby accompanied me.I tried to keep the atmosphere lively by initiating conversation but all in vain.Little did we know what was in store for us...
The Orthopaedic surgeons were expecting my arrival.They wasted no time in giving me regional anaesthesia and everything was ready.
The surgery started.
And all I could do was to pray hoping that there would be nothing serious.
Perhaps 10 minutes would have passed when the anesthetist (who was a good friend as well) walked upto me and told me that the injury was worse than what we had been expecting.
I had injured three tendons,one nerve and one vein in the process.*[Tendons are distal portion of muscles which connect them to the bone and in the lower limb,they help a lot in weight-bearing).I felt paralysed on hearing this.This would mean that I had a long recovery period ahead ,the very prospect of which seemed to frighten me.I felt as if my head was spinning.The image of my wife and kids flashed in front of my eyes.As if he sensed my fears,the anaesthetist held my right hand firmly in a grasp and he went out to told my family the same.
The surgery went smoothly for another hour at the end of which my right leg was placed in a cast.I was wheeled out of the complex where the surgeons spoke with my wife and father waiting in the briefing room.They told us that I would be spending atleast 2 months in the bed before physiotherapy.
Back in the room,both of us were crying.Tears rolled down her cheeks and I felt gullible all of a sudden.I felt like a warrior stripped off his weapon while standing in the way of the raging enemy.Everything came to a standstill.We were caught in the fog quite off-guard and the future was a blur.The pandemic year struck us in more ways than one and this was probably the icing on the cake.
And it is till date my worst birthday gift to her which falls on 3rd August.
It was raining outside.I was staring at the wall in front of me.Juby had just brought me my breakfast as Lia stood at the footend of the bed pointing at the cast and shouting “Boo..boo!”I smiled at her at which she rested her head on my left leg.
It was the date of my first review.
My father was waiting in the drawing room as I slowly hopped clutching the walker with both hands,across the room.The walker had by now become my third leg.The walk was laborious but nevertheless needed.We reached the hospital in 20 minutes.I was asked to retain the same cast for another month after which I had to come for my next review.We decided that it was best to travel over to Juby’s house so that she would also get the much needed support at this time.So we went to Kochi a day after,where I was confined to our room at the top floor.
Days went by. And I understood what it meant to be confined to ones’s bed.I started reflecting.Here I was complaining about my plight and my condition.What about all those people out there who had to endure similar circumstances for longer periods,that too without hope of a recovery?What about those who had been crippled right from birth?I didn’t have to think further.The memory of Juby having been confined to her bed since the fifth month of our pregnancy was still afresh in my mind. Ours was an eventful gestation.She had just joined her DNB training and soon enough,there were complications and the fate of a threatened abortion looming overhead in an already difficult antenatal period owing to a twin gestation.I am not going into that at present,because it would take me pages to describe our struggles during that period.And nobody ever knew what we went through-neither my parents nor our friends or relatives.Mine was not even comparable to that.Atleast I could walk around and do whatever I want except that there were restrictions.She,on the other hand,was helpless as if tied to a bed which she never left for literally anything.How can I ever forget those times!
I mostly spent my days reading.If someone asks me what was the best thing that came out of my bedrest,it is the fact that my interest in reading was rekindled and so did my inspiration to write.I remember I started slowly but soon enough,I was finishing books one after the other.Reading always helped me to retain my composure and kill the boredom.I used to order a couple of books at a time and would soon be making my next order that day itself!!
My kids would come running with every meal and would sit with me till I finish them.I could hear them crying out loud as they come up the stairs.Oh,how I wished I could entertain them let alone sit with them for a couple of hours as I used to!
My next review got over by the first week of September.My cast was removed and a fresh one was applied after minimal mobilisation of the ankle joint.It was so painful but I never knew then that it was nothing compared to what lied ahead.This one was more comfortable and allowed weight-bearing.So I was asked to make efforts to walk by myself with the help of the walker in short strides.
You can never comprehend fully what another is going through until you are through it yourself .People often feel that they can but more importantly they keep saying that to the person as if to console them.Let me tell you,it doesn’t serve the purpose in the least.The helplessness of the situation is perhaps the most striking aspect of it.It is quite understandable when you are at a stage of your life already dependent on others-say,at the extremes of age.But when it happens in your youth,needing someone else to help you with managing even the smallest of things starts haunting you soon.I could slowly acclimatise myself to the situation,thanks to my family but there are others who do not have the luxury of the same.
Another month passed quickly.I would slowly walk outside into the balcony and sit there in the mornings and evenings,usually when my kids were playing outside.I loved hearing their “appa” calls as they would hop around.Still books and movies kept me going.I also felt that I started gaining weight,thanks to the sumptuous meals round the clock from Mummy(mother-in-law).As days went by,I started climbing down the stairs too much to the joy of Juby.She was the one who kept motivating me to get back into action and the person who wanted it the most,even when I wanted to give up.
I was wheeled into the dressing room of Orthopaedics OPD.This was the day my cast was being taken off.My right leg looked different-lean,wrinkled and shapeless.It felt different too.I was asked to get off the couch and try to walk.I tried,except that I couldn’t.The moment my foot touched the ground,my body sank.I could not apply pressure on the ground with my leg.I felt as if the limb was not mine.It was so painful and I clunged desperately to the sidewalls to prevent myself from falling.And there began my association with Physiotherapy which was perhaps,the toughest and most painful phase of those three months post-injury.
I was supposed to have my PT sessions thrice a week,on alternate days.The very first day at the department of PMR(Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation) gave a glimpse into my month-long stay there.
The first step was mobilisation of my stiff ankle joint.It was to be done on a regular and daily basis for atleast 2 weeks.I knew it would be painful but it exceeded my expectations.As the manual stretching of joint was done,I had excruciating pain and felt as if my tendon would break.I couldn’t restrain myself from howling in agony for long.I cursed the very moment my injury happened.And this was just the beginning.
Each session lasted for around 3-4 hours and most of them were aimed at improving the muscle tone of lower limbs thereby helping me to be back on my feet.But this was a long journey and never going to be easy.I frequently encountered so many familiar faces daily as I made my way to the PMR Department;most of them looked back at me with sympathy etched over while others had disbelief scribbled over theirs.
Often I would try to walk by myself but every single time,I would feel a sharp shooting pain as soon as my right foot touched the ground and made me stagger.It felt as if I would never get my limb back.Never before did I feel hopelessness and desperation like I felt during my days at physiotherapy.I was very hopeful of return to normal during the two months after surgery but all of it vanished in thin air,about a week into my rehabilitation.I longed to run around with my kids and to be able to drive again as these were two of the things I was really missing.All of it seemed to be improbable now.After every session,my feet would turn sore and it would swell up as I winced in pain.But back home,the presence of my family instilled confidence in me amidst all the suffering.
And this continued for about 2 weeks until I started noticing slight improvement.
I was now in my last week of Physiotherapy.I had started to walk now but the limp was obvious.The fact is,you do not understand the complexity of locomotion until you land in a similar situation.During my rehabilitation,I was learning the art of walking systematically from scratch.And yes,it did fascinate me.By then,three months of my medical leave were already done with and I had to rejoin soon.I waited for another two weeks before I went back.
I finally rejoined after 100 days of eventful medical leave.I was still having difficulty in walking.But it was nothing short of a miracle to be literally back on your feet after five major structures of your lower limb were severed.The journey was a tiresome one but nevertheless,it was a learning experience.
There are so many people to whom I’m thankful for.I could not have sailed across this unchartered ocean without their constant and continuing encouragement.It is not possible to name all of them but some of them needs to be mentioned.My wife,Juby is perhaps the person to whom I am most indebted to.There were times when I used to feel low and had it been not for her,my morale would have been destroyed.No amount of words can do justice to her presence in my life.My twin girls-oh my little women-for being my sunshine in pitch darkness prompting me to be wholesome again so as to be with them.My parents-in-law for the troubles they took in looking after an ailing son-in-law amidst the pandemic;my parents for the constant prayers ; my close friends,colleagues and kin,who provided us with the moral support and physical assistance whenever needed.And then there were those friends,who I understood were not entitled to the term after all.As Henry David Thoreau has said and I quote: “Friendship is never established as an understood relation. It is a miracle which requires constant proofs. It is an exercise of the purest imagination and of the rarest faith!”
My steps are stronger and the gait is almost back to what it was 366 days ago.The lateral(outer) aspect of my right foot is still numb as the nerve hasn’t regenerated as expected.Not that it has any significant effect on my daily life but the unpleasant sensation occasionally creates a mild discomfort.At times,the pain at the heel recurs and the aching over the posterior aspect of my ankle troubles me but I’m more than happy to acknowledge that these are currently the only sequelae at the moment.It is said that theoretically there are chances of re-injury and scar fibrosis but I hope they do not come looking after me.Atleast,not too soon....
*(The structures injured were: Tendoachilles,Peroneus brevis and tertius,Sural nerve and Short Saphenous Vein).